Comics Review – Songs for the Dead (Vault Comics)

In the first review of this series, I focused on comics with a direct connection to roleplaying games – as in set in the same universes, even containing rules for those games. But not every RPG has its own comic line and there are plenty out there that can provide great inspiration for your own games or are just fun reads in a similar genre. Today I look at Songs for the Dead by Vault Comics. It’s a fantasy adventure with a setting and characters that would make for a perfect RPG or a great conversion for your favorite set of rules.

Written by Andrea Fort and Michael Christopher Heron.

Art by Sam Beck

Colors by Ellie Wright

Letters by AndWorld Design

Bethany is a bard. Idealistic and altruistic, we first meet her at a town notice board, perusing the flyers for people needing help. Upon finding a request to help find a missing boy, she is less interested in the reward than the opportunity to perform a good deed.

Of course, in only a short time we discover her secret: she’s also a necromancer – though she uses her abilities for good and not to conquer the world with a hoard of shambling undead. It’s during this first adventure she meets Elissar: a world-weary, hard-as-nails mercenary, who mentions to Bethany The Covenant (a group of necromancers who hide from the prejudices of the world to keep safe), resulting in the two setting off to find this mysterious and reclusive group, in the hope Bethany will find a safe haven amongst them.

Naturally things aren’t ever easy and the two encounter much danger in their explorations, including from “Tristan’s Will,” agents of the God-King with an inquisitorial bent and a hatred of necromancers, the fact that one works with them notwithstanding.

The writing in this series is really good. The characters all have very distinct voices and the plot throws you for a loop more than once, helping it stand out from being just another fantasy adventure (high quality or no.) The world itself is very intriguing, doling out setting details in increments and not overwhelming the reader with exposition (hard enough in novels, very tricky in comics.)

For gamers there’s a lot that should be of interest, since the setting (what appears to be ambiguously medieval fantasy) looks pretty diverse and hasn’t fully explained how everything works, so it should be easy to adapt to your preferred rules – especially regarding magic. Fights appear deadly, so I’d keep it to a slightly more grounded or low-level game (to start), but one that still allows improvisation. Certain characters do exhibit some more impressive physical abilities, so those would have to be taken into account.

The art style is really nice. It’s a very diverse world with a fantasy medieval aesthetic and a variety of character and character types. A very nice touch is that Bethany’s necromancy surrounds its subjects in a blue glow and the bad necromancer’s aura is red. What exactly that means remains to be seen.

The Necromancer’s Map seems to be positioned as a Songs for the Dead “Tale”, but is effectively Volume 2, picking up right where the first volume left off.

After the shocking and sad climax of the previous story, Bethany and Elissar are still looking for someone to interpret their coded map that they hope will lead them to the Covenant. This brings them to further adventure and intrigue in the academy of the Foggard (magic-users whose powers are limited to providing hospitality and whose symbols are all over the map) and to the grand city of Vallegard where they hope to find answers in the massive library of the God-King.

As readers, we get some interesting expansions on the world, including the realm of the dark elves and the metaphysics of the universe, and more of our protagonists’ history is revealed, even if some of that is still vague. Bethany and Elissar receive a new traveling companion who proves themself to be much more useful than initially thought. Still pursued by Tristan’s Will they regularly find themselves in danger.

The writing continues to be excellent. There’s lots of humor interspersed among the serious moments and all the characters get moments to be awesome. It’s lots of fun seeing a necromancer as a protagonist as Bethany finds unorthodox solutions to certain challenges – solutions that would not be out of place coming from a PC in an RPG. I especially love how the necromantic glow is addressed in this volume. Evidently it’s not just for the readers reference to indicate a creature is animated – everyone sees the blue/red glow and they will ask about it.

Songs of the Dead blends light humor and fantasy adventure with unorthodox characters and is quite a fun read. You can pick it up in PDF from the below Affiliate links and DriveThruComics to help support this site!

Songs for the Dead Vol 1

The Necromancer’s Map

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